Citing sources close to the alleged deal, Sky News reported late last week that Surrey-based Dairy Crest and New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra are on the verge of signing a deal that would see the latter source demineralized whey from the British dairy.
Through the partnership Dairy Crest will reportedly process whey, a cheese manufacturing by-product, produced at its Davidstow creamery in Cornwall to remove unwanted minerals.
The demineralized whey will then, according to the reports, be supplied to Fonterra as a base ingredient for infant formula destined for major markets such as China.
Sky News' sources also claimed the partnership could be announced this week.
Approached by DairyReporter.com, Dairy Crest declined to confirm whether it is in talks with Fonterra.
“We haven’t got a comment to make,” said a Dairy Crest spokesperson.
“We will be partnering with someone, but we have yet to make an announcement."
New Zealand-based Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, also declined to comment on the reports.
High quality whey stream
Last year, Dairy Crest announced plans to “add greater value to the high quality whey stream” at its Davidstow creamery.
It committed to investing £45m (US$77m, €56.5m) to begin the manufacture of demineralized whey powder at the facility, which is Dairy Crest's largest cheese plant and produces Cathedral City and Davidstow brand products.
It also outlined plans to bring in a partner to produce and sell the infant formula.
Fonterra, meanwhile, has made strides in Europe in recent years.
It began its European sourcing efforts in 2011 when it formed a joint venture with British dairy processor, First Milk.
Following this, Fonterra partnered with Lithuanian dairy Rokiškio and signed an agreement with Dutch firm A-Ware Food to establish separate “mutually-beneficial” neighbouring cheese and whey protein ingredients plants in the Netherlands.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com in December 2013, the cooperative's regional arm, Fonterra Europe, said that it was “here to stay” and would “be looking to establish more partnerships” in the near future.